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The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty.
Sunday, July 09, 2006

Zizou Zidane

Zinedine Zidane began life as a street footballer in La Castellane, the tough suburb of Marseille in which he grew up. He ended it last night as a street fighter in one of Europe's most historic stadiums and in front of a worldwide audience of millions.

And so a towering football career ended in humiliation as Zidane disappeared down the tunnel for the last time, sent off in the second half of extra time in a World Cup final for blatantly shoving his head into the chest of Marco Materazzi, with whom he had just had a bitter exchange of words. Footballers generally operate a law of omerta on such matters, so we may never be really sure what Materazzi said that provoked him into one of the acts of retaliatory violence that have studded his otherwise brilliant passage through the game. Whatever the cause, however, after 108 matches and 31 goals for France it was saddening to watch the great man leave the pitch, and football, in such an unsatisfactory manner.


In the Name of the Father

In the Name of the Son

Prologue
That which is written is written: 'Mektoub!'
'When he came to France before the Algerian war, my father moved in just behind the stadium. In St Denis at that time there were just woodlands, hilly plots and ruined houses. That was where my father lived. My mother showed me a photo of him from those days...an old yellowed black and white photo. My father was young back then.'
(Zidane)

In the Name of the Father

As it was, as it still is, as it will always be: the seething black suburb encircling the red belt, and everything that came before. The endless jumble of housing estates, already built on the water-sodden ground of a landscape filled with factorychimneys spreading their deleterious fumes far around them. In wintertime, the very snow falls from a sky bespeckled with soot. And the entire region is covered in a crust of piss and rust.

In the Name of the Son

You arrive, one behind the other, from the underground tunnel leading to the pitch. French on the right, Brazilians on the left. The two captains, Deschamps and Dunga, leading the way. Watching over you, around the ground, are blue and khaki silhouettes, helmets, clubs, uniforms, police, soldiers, and special forces. Further off are forgers, tricksters, counterfeit money dealers and football shirt-sellers clearing out their stock of blue. At the black market rate, a seat is 10,000 francs. In the stands, ministers, stars, officals, the president of the Republic and the prime minister.

In the Name of the Father

Mud, rain, dust, splatterings of tar, stunted, stubby trees brushing the ground. mean dwellings of recycled steel, chipboard, breezeblocks. Most foreigners who took root here finished by losing their roots. They worked hard to feed their families. And there, poor among the poor, they toiled at the everlasting vocation of their kind: survival.

In the Name of the Son

You arrive on the pitch to the thunderous acclaim of the spectators. The Brazilians raise their arms in salute. They sing their national anthem. Then France, the whole crowd sing as one. Eighty thousand throats at work. You! Lips scarcely moving. The president of the Republic and the prime minister...just as in 1789. Karembeu...mouth shut. The nation has waited years for the day of glory. But you, what are you thinking of at this moment? Of your boyhood room with the photo of Enzo Francescoli on the wall? Of that pair of Kopas you were given on your twelfth birthday? Of your earliest professional days at US St Henri?

In the Name of the Father

So it is today, within these slabs of buildings, many an immigrant arrives from the four corners of the world in search of a haven of hope. From street level rise the shrill yells and cries of their children as they play with a black-and-white ball. There is nothing that can save them from this encircling belt of towers that line the road. Further down still, the capital's ring road vomits traffic from both ends.

In the Name of the Son

The lines break up. Here you are, greeting the Brazilian players. You shake hands with each before lining up for the photo. Photos and cameras. The world is there. The whole world. With Djorkaeff's Armenia. Desailly's Ghana. Laurent Blanc's France. Thuram's Guadeloupe. Karembeu's New Caledonia. Zidane's Algeria...and all of you...'The blue-black-white-Arab cockerel'.

In the Name of the Father

Smail was born over there. Born hearing the echo of the soft singing of women, with their clear voices and long henna-stained fingers, cradling their delicate infants in their arms and languidly shooing away the tiny flies that danced and buzzed around their heads. He knows the parchment faces of the old Kabyle men, and the old women leaning against walls made of dry stones and adobe. He remembers their names.

In the Name of the Son

There's a decision to make, the referee tosses a coin then picks it off the ground. The two captains part with a handshake.

In the Name of the Father

Over there, he is everywhere. On the mountain, in every white stone, in every spiny bush, in every tuft of grass, even in the bed of the wadi, in the dusty-violet-coloured far-off hills, in the endless skies where the wind still whistles, carrying muffled snatches of the voice of the muezzin as he utters the call to prayer from the Djemaa. Algeria: in this land, he is everywhere.

In the Name of the Son

It is nine o'clock in the evening. To the sound of the shouted applause of the crowd, the kick-off of the World Cup final. You look up to the stands, then kiss your wedding wing. The ball rolls right, left, then away, forwards. The crowd in the stands, painted in blue, exhorts, trumpets, shouts. This way you have a turning back on yourself...gliding as if on roller skates...balletic passing...applause, shouts, quiet periods...runs, accelerations, dummies, dribbles, breaks...control...This way you have of killing, of enveloping the ball between your legs, dancing as you feint with your body...and the ball that passes from right leg to left.

In the Name of the Father

Yet his presence in St Denis is beyond doubt. There, among the foreigners wrenched from their soil, like a plant pulled from the ground but whose tiniest roots still hold fast. in every one of the men's movements, in every inflexion of their voices, in every feature of their bodies, a timid pardon was asked of the world for that small patch of land they were doome to inhabit. As the days flowed by, they dwindled, so small that they might disappear. From time to time they...disappeared...

In the Name of the Son

Twenty-seventh minute. Emmanuel Petit places the ball on the corner spot. He strikes. The ball takes flight. You jump. You send your header speeding to the post. The ball slides to the back of the net. France 1, Brazil 0. In the stands, on the terraces, everywhere the crowd yells this exclamation: 'Zizou! Zizou!' The diminutive makes a circuit of the stadium. Your comrades clasp you to them. You kiss Emmanuel Petit.

In the Name of the Father

That day, he suddenly remembered memories so far distant, so long past, that it was like a miasma within him. he saw it like a dream, as if it was not real as if somebody else had lived it. That day, 12 July 1998, he remembered something far-off, forgotten. His arrival in Seine St Denis.

In the Name of the Son

In the stands, fabrics of many colours are waving. French flags mix with the red star and cresent of Algeria. Shouts of joy are heard in every language, from every mouth, in every accent. Once upon a time in the twenty-seventh minute. Twice upon a time in the forty-fifth minute. Djorkaeff places the ball on the corner spot. And the story begins, the legend...Frnace 2, Brazil 0. In the second half, Emmanuel Petit is six metres from Taffarel. You are into stoppage time. One minute to play. he scores from a pass by Vieira. France 3, Brazil 0.

In the Name of the Father

Marseilles, the northern suburbs. That night, Smail sighed and closed his eyes. His head gently lolled on to his shoulder. His breathing forced a great sigh into his pillow. He was already asleep. Fragments of images, images without order or logic, passed through his head, images of things he'd seen in childhood. it appeared to him that the house was full of visitors shouting his name. The images scrolled and whirled through his head. Some pleased him and so he tried to grab hold of them, but they passed across his vision and faded away. These images struck him with the power and the clarity of dreams, and suddenly, before his eyes he saw the blurred silhouette of Yazid stooping towards him. Between his hands he held a trophy. Smail ceaselessly intoned the strange words that seemed imbued with magic: 'Mabrouk my son! Mabrouk!' Gold flooded from the ball, from the cup, as if it were the light of a sun.

In the Name of the Son

The grandstand. Didier Deschamps leads the way. He kisses Michel Platini and the president. They shake your hand. They present you with medals. The president of the Republic hands the cup to the captain. The trophy is passed from hand to hand, from mouth to mouth. Then you all return to the pitch. you sprint, you careen, you spin around like whirling dervishes. Champions of the world, you dance to the tune 'I Will Survive', now truly your theme song.

In the Name of the Father

In the Name of the Father,
In the Name of the Son,
And so be it.
the ties between father and son are sacred.

'Whatever happens, my father will be with me. What he has taught me is the way to God.'
(Zidane)

In the Name of the Son

Pouring along the Champs Elysees. The crowds. Horns everywhere. Flags everywhere. On balconies, on cars, in people's hands, in trees, in bars. Your name lights up on the Arc de Triomphe. Millions are crying 'Zidane, president!' Everywhere are clutches of men, of women, of children, perched on phone boxes, car roofs, newspaper kiosks. Cheers ring out in all languages, from all mouths, from all ages, reaching to the very mountains of Kabyle. The sounds of ululating in the village while the shadows of night fall upon the trees of the Parc Clairefontaine.

*Zizou Zidane- The World's Best Player by Mounsi Mohand. First published in the anthology Le Foot- The Legends of French Football, edited by Christov Ruhn.

posted by Trilby at 3:25 pm
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4 Comments:

Blogger Keropok commented at 1:14 am~  

This is brilliant.

I'm a big Zizou fan, and this is simply awesome. I'm enjoying meeting other bloggers (and blogs) on football.

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Blogger BIGMAC commented at 6:46 pm~  

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